Note: I’ll be out of town between the 4th and the 15th, in a wilderness repast, with little to absolutely zero connection to the internet or my phone. Posts during this time, written in advance, will be bigger-picture, or more idiosyncratic, rather than directly pegged to the news. If events happen that supersede or negate anything I say, think of these as a more innocent time capsule. Try not to let the country burn down while I’m gone.
One of the phrases that you hear most often when people talk about the possibility of Donald Trump, that calamitous baby, that reject from a frat house treasurer race, is “constitutional crisis.” The idea behind the threat is that our system, with its checks and balances, and respect for the rule of law, can’t handle such a dingbat authoritarian, someone guided entirely by his fascistic whims. This has been argued in many ways, by the ACLU, by the New York Times, and many others.
The argument about him provoking this crisis isn’t just about his repellent personality, of course, but about the ways in which that personality manifest itself. His “plans”, which are really just the knee-jerk impulses of a dimwit child, include expanding libel laws to crush opposition press, rounding up illegal immigrants, building enormous walls, and reestablishing our immigration policy to discriminate explicitly on the basis of faith.
All of these go against the basic idea of the rule of law, but the argument isn’t always legal. Certainly, lawyers like in the Times and the ACLU make perfectly convincing arguments that his ideas are so blatantly illegal that they will set up the Executive Branch in a state of open warfare with the Judicial Branch, with the Legislative in between, either facilitating his madness or trying tentatively to stop it. It will force us to see how powerful we’ve made the Executive, if a President can truly ride roughshod over anyone in his way. It will be a literal test of the power of the Constitution, to see if it the institutions are strong enough to resist the phony populist strongman.